Patti Crisler – When a Nurse Has a Stroke
In March of 2016 I had both knees replaced at a free-standing outpatient surgery center. I chose to go out of network because it was closer to home and I was encouraged that I could safely return home the same day.
Unfortunately, a series of adverse events occurred at the surgery center that were preventable, resulting in me having two strokes several hours after being discharged to home. While at the surgery center, I was to receive nerve blocks to both legs prior to the surgery. Neither block was successful. I woke up experiencing excruciating pain so an intraspinal injection was administered for pain control until I got home.
I remember being so weak that I could not sit up unaided, or stand without two people assisting me. I didn’t understand why I was so weak but kept reassuring my family that I was 'fine.'
Each time that I needed to get up to use the restroom, family members helped me into a seated walker and pushed me to the restroom. I was so weak that I would pass out onto my son’s chest when being pushed back to the recliner.
Later that night, my sister noticed that I was dropping my water glass and offered to hand it to me to drink with a straw. Around 6 a.m., I was more awake and noticed that my right arm and leg felt numb and weak. I was alert enough at this point to ask my sister to watch me as I raised my arms in the air and tell me if either of my arms ‘drooped.’ As a stroke certified nurse I recognized my right arm drift as a sign of a stroke.
I was transported to my own ER where I was told that I had lost more than ½ of my blood volume and had suffered two strokes due to prolonged low blood pressure following surgery.
When blood pressure suddenly drops, remains low and begins to come up to normal, our bodies can ‘shed clots.’
My one-day procedure ultimately resulted in a three-week hospital stay that included vital sign stabilization, blood replacement and then months of physical, speech and occupational therapy.
I discovered what it is like for our stroke patients after leaving the ER. I was gently cared for by therapists, nurses and physicians whose goal was a return to my own new normal. I was afraid that I would not be able to return to work or drive as the stroke had also affected my distance vision and my short-term memory.
I experienced crying spells that I could not understand and received education and medications that helped with what is termed a ‘pseudobulbar affect.’
Physical therapy helped with my right-handed dexterity which I would need to be able to grip with my right hand and to again start IVs. One of my favorite therapists knew that I also needed to feel like a normal woman again and during some sessions began with me painting own fingernails!
Speech therapy helped me with my memory retention and cognition. I was motivated because working in the ER can be chaotic, requiring excellent attention to detail.
Goals of occupational therapy were to get me ready to drive, care for myself at home and return to work.
My own manager worked with my Physician and allowed me to work three days a week for two hours at a time and gradually increase my hours back to my normal 12 hours over several months.
There are important takeaway points for everyone. My mistake was assuming that I could be my own best healthcare advocate following surgery. In retrospect, this makes as much sense as having the intoxicated person be the designated driver. Seek out medical friends to advocate for you when necessary. Do not be afraid to ask prior to any procedure what protocols are in place should your condition decline.
Most important though, is patience. Patience with your own recovery, physicians and therapists. Secondly, listen to your body. When you are tired, take a nap. When something doesn’t feel right, act F.A.S.T. (F- face drooping, A – arm weakness, S – speech difficulty, T – time to call 911).
Want to help spread the word about resources available for life after stroke? Be sure to check out everything on offer for World Stroke Day.
How do you stay patient after a stroke? Join the Support Network to comment below and share your experience.